Infection Control 101 for Dummies, Anyone?

From the top floor of the chemotherapy clinic, I could see my neighboring work place and the beautiful downtown.

If there’s a cause for celebration for me, it is the second to the last chemotherapy round I had yesterday. Notice the picture above? I have a smile on my face. Paul took this picture of me before the drama. See the story further down. I have been in the clinic from nine thirty in the morning till one thirty in the afternoon. I can’t say Paul and I were starving at the end. I had hot chocolate, one and a half bagels with cream cheese, and a not-so-good-kinda-dry donut from the free breakfast table during chemotherapy.

Before that, I saw my favorite oncology physician assistant. Sorry oncologist. My PA always takes time to listen to my complaints and explores each one. She asks many times if I have any more concerns instead of having one foot out the door as I am still talking. I asked if she knows about these new facial veins showing on the sides of my chin down my neck. She does not know about it. I asked for a prescription for urinary urgency as I have trouble making it to the bathroom without trickling since I started drinking two liters of water each day. She wanted to run a urine test first to rule out infection. Fine with me. Although my opinion as a nurse diagnosing myself—I don’t have urinary tract infection. I also asked about sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle mass) in my case. She said, since my therapy is short and does not span for many long months, I should not worry. Good.

She showed me my labs. My hemoglobin and hematocrit blood levels read lower than normal, even lower than my last prechemo levels, but good enough to not require blood transfusion. Something new–my albumin reads low that she suggested from the lack of protein in my diet. I thought  pigging out twice in a Chinese restaurant with shrimp, oysters, clams, green muscles, beef, and salmon would help me get enough protein. Last Sunday, Paul and I ate as many barbecue beef, pork, and chicken we could stuff in our tummies at Kaya Korean restaurant. What about  the protein shakes, yogurt, milk, soymilk, and almond milk I alternatively consume daily? I just gained four pounds! I tipped the scale to my heaviest weight in years very close to my pregnancy weight. How much more should I eat? Eating right to compensate for chemo damage isn’t easy.

Now, my chemotherapy session drama.

My sweet nurse went to take a lunch break and left me with other two nurse’s care. As many times before, my pump beeped. I saw Ashley, the nurse, leaving a patient to attend to me. Donning dirty gloves, holding a bag of trash with syringe caps and used IV bags in it, she hurried to me, put the bag on the recliner I have my butt on, and turned off my IV alarm.

“Will you at least change your gloves? That will make me feel better.” At that time, I could feel my face turn hot trying really hard to choose my words.

She looked at me and said, “Oh, OK.”

She proceeded to touch my IV bags and tubing with her dirty gloves, and called the second nurse, Helena, to double-check the second chemo drug.

Helena came. Ashley left to attend another beeping alarm. She seems to like to travel and left us.

I asked Helena to help me from now on and not let that Ashley nurse come near me again. I explained what happened, bawling. I could not hold my frustration. I could see eyes on the sides looking at me as I cry. Just a month ago, I stayed in the hospital with neutropenic fever and elevated lactate level suggesting infection, an infection they could not tract. I can’t afford another infection.

I complained to the supervisor and she explained to me that what happened could not give me infection because Ashley did not directly touch my IV insertion site. Am I an idiot? Ashley contaminated my space. The nurse who would eventually remove my IV would touch the now contaminated buttons of the pump first. Then she would open up a packet of gauze with her now contaminated gloves and dirty the gauze. She would then cover my open puncture site with that gauze were the IV catheter came from to stop the bleeding. THERE is the possible source of infection. These people will need to retake Infection Control 101 for dummies.

Helena did me a favor and wiped everything I pointed with Caviwipes to disinfect the surfaces, IV pole, pump, IV bags before she started my second chemo drug. She apologized profusely for what happened. She attended to succeeding IV alarms, etc.

Finally my nurse Denise came back, always with a grin on her face. She had no idea about the scene earlier. I told her the drama. She offered that I talk to the patient advocate Denis who promptly showed up and really listened to me. He said he understood my frustration and fear. I told him that this should not happen again to me and other unsuspecting patients who may be sicker, more vulnerable, and more immunocompromised than I am. It has to stop. They need to reëducate their nurses because it will not come from their supervisor for sure.

He made an arrangement that he will come and see me on my next chemotherapy appointment to act as my advocate. Fine with me. He handed me his card and asked that I call for anymore concerns. What do you think? Should I write the head of the department?

Paul, who accompanied me to chemo for the very first time, witnessed the whole thing and felt bad for me. He took me for our favorite Asian Zing chicken wings at Buffalo wings to cheer me up. Then we picked up some cheesecake from King Soopers to enjoy at  home. Guess what? Both of them tasted weird. The chicken lacked the zing and the cake tasted bland.

“It is too sweet,” Paul said. My daughter agreed.

“Are you guys kidding me? It is bland.”

I guess the metallic taste hit me early. Darn

After that, I opened up Roxanne’s bag of stuff she left for me on the doorstep back home. My friend did not make it to my appointment. She wanted to go too but had to cancel due to a bad cold. She stuffed her love instead in a big bag. It contained a box of ginger ale, oranges, blank Thank you cards, Maxine funny book, disinfecting wipes, gums, sweet-smelling papaya and mango candles, and Dove raspberry chocolates. Do I feel special? Oh yes. This woman put a smile on my sad face.

I can’t say I had the best day yesterday but Paul and Roxanne tried to make up for the bad.


6 thoughts on “Infection Control 101 for Dummies, Anyone?

  1. As a nurse myself going though this, I appreciated you sticking up to her like that! People get that RN behind their name and forget basic nursing 101. Good for you! Sheryl

  2. Carina, I love that you inject all of your nurse knowledge into you blog, I can’t even tell you what kind of cancer I have. I agree that you should say something and could feel your tears of worry. Happy day to you.

  3. So happy only 1 more!!! 🙂 BUT glad you caught that nurse’s actions! Definitely I think you should write to the head of the department! No excuses for that one with Chemo Patients!

  4. Just one more after this. Good for you 🙂 Light at the end of the tunnel. I would have been upset with that nurse too. I’m glad you spoke up. So many patients wouldn’t give a thought. I’ll be paying closer attention!

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